“I am almost 30 years of age and I do not have a single girl as a friend and nor do I have a girl friend!” wailed Amit. “In all these years I did not dare make a girl friend because it was severely looked down upon in my home by my parents. My mother asks me so many questions about my whereabouts and insists I tell her each and every move of mine- where do I go, whom do I meet, who is good for me and who is not good for me, when I should be back home, etc”. He was working in another city and lived his life away from parents for many years. However he often complained of bouts of intense anger and fear too.
Shreyas told his new wife that his mother ‘will never change her ways the adjustment will have to be done by her. His mother has had a tough life as his father was generally unemployed and she had to earn the bread and run the family with three children to feed. His grandmother surprisingly always sided with her son in spite of the fact that he was irresponsible and a tyrant. Hence his mother had also become a tyrant and although he feels that her behaviour is not right towards his wife, there is not much he can do about it except bear it!”
Madhuri seemed to be full of anger but behaved very sweetly with all. She rarely expressed her anger, never fought with others and seemed quite submissive in her interactions with people. She however complained often of headaches and pains in the body. The doctors could not find medical reasons for her frequent bouts of illness. Counselling revealed deep seated anger and hostility against her mother who she said was very nice and caring but had some flaws. Her mother loved her as Madhuri was the only child and often feared that some harm would come to her. She was over protective, over caring and had many expectations from Madhuri, she being the only child. Once or twice when she tried telling her mother that she needed more freedom to meet friends and that she was not allowed like other kids, her mother threw such a tantrum of crying and accusing her for being ungrateful that she shut up and gave up her efforts to check her mother. She accepted nearly all her mother’s norms and lived by her rules.
Rupesh confessed that he could not carry out his commitment of marrying his girlfriend of long years due to his mother’s tantrums and hysterical behaviour. His widowed mother had severe fears about her only son getting a wife home who would take control of the house and ‘throw her (the mother) out’ of her home and dominate her son! He was terrified of his mother and paralysed in solving the problem.
Sunita after ten years of married life was frustrated with her husband and her mother-in-law. While her father-in-law controlled the business and the purse, the mother-in-law ran the house according to her set dictates without giving Sunita any powers in the house. Her frequent complaints to her husband about his submissiveness and about his low status in the family business fell on deaf years with the result that she left home one day in despair.
Controlling mothers control their children due to a variety of reasons, whether it is their own insecurities or their own personality disorders or whatever reasons they can give, they do not realise the damage their behaviour does to their wards. Mothers who micro-manage their children feel they are ‘right’ in doing so and that’s the way it should be. They can justify their behaviour in many ways. Children who are nurtured by such mothers not only face problems in their childhood but also encounter psychological hardships in adulthood. The remnants of childhood trauma can be seen in adulthood as such adults struggle to re-define their selves and their lives. Most of them cannot trace their troubles to their parental upbringing as they deny any negative experiences.
These experiences have consequences on their self, such as low self-esteem, low confidence in their capabilities, inability to take decisions, a deep sense of frustration and anger, high sensitivity, and confusion in more aspects. Such aspects impact their adult life and their sense of well being and can lead to lowered quality of life and lowered sense of happiness. Such people may possess ample talent and competencies and may be high achievers in their work life but they may still feel a sense of suffocation overtaking them at times which acts as impediments to their overall progress and growth. Adults of controlling mothers may like dominating or controlling spouses, may need a lot of attention and reassurance, may tend to be dependent on their spouses for support. They can wrongly define ‘controlling and dominating’ as ‘love and care’. Conversely they can be unreasonably rebellious to any type of ‘controlling’ behaviour and create conflict.
Control has negative connotations. And controlling on a micro level has disastrous consequences. Parenting is a tight rope walk and the fear of falling and failing is always imminent. Healthy growth of personality requires a good balance between enforcement of discipline with a good dose of freedom of thought and action. It is certainly not an easy formula but a necessary one for healthy mothering.